Are Cybersecurity Bootcamps Worth It?
Updated: Aug 29
So you're looking to start a cybersecurity career and are considering your training options... great! In this article, I will explore if cybersecurity boot camps are "worth it" compared to other training options.
Quick answer: boot camps are NOT "worth it."
They are not bad or a waste of time. However, I think every other training option is better in most cases.
Boot camps are expensive, and there are many options to learn the same skills for significantly less money.
Boot camps are generally instructor-led, which is their biggest advantage compared to the self-study options.
Boot camps are only "worth it" if the price is of no concern to you and you want instructed-led training because you find it difficult to self-study.
My take on the "Are Cybersecurity Bootcamps Worth It?" question
Boot camps will teach you valuable skills that will definitely help you break into cybersecurity and land your first job. However, boot camps are not "worth it" compared to other options because they lack credentials and are expensive. Degrees offer more value despite being double the price and taking eight times as long to complete. Certifications offer significantly more value because you can get them in a shorter time frame for significantly less money. Self-studying is more valuable because it costs next to nothing, and you can learn the same skills in the same time frame and perhaps even shorter. Boot camps are only "worth it" if you absolutely want instructor-led training. Instructors are great and are probably better than reading a book or watching a video series because you can ask the instructor questions and get immediate answers, explanations, and feedback. However, these perks are very expensive. Boot camps do not get mentioned in job postings as certifications and degrees do. Employers want "credentials" or verifiable skills. Unlike certifications and degrees, a bootcamp completion doesn't necessarily validate that you have the necessary skills.
If the price of the bootcamp is of no concern to you, and you have no idea how to get started in cybersecurity, by all means, sign up for a bootcamp and complete it. Just know that doing your own research, self-studying for certifications, and completing free and low-cost labs will always be a better bang for your buck. I always recommend certifications for starting out in cybersecurity. They offer a somewhat structured learning path but provide ultimate flexibility at an affordable price and are highly desirable by employers in job postings.
Compare and Contrast
Generally, there are four training options:
Time to complete
Bang for your buck
A cybersecurity bootcamp training program aims to equip participants with cybersecurity skills like penetration testing and network defense. Unlike college degree programs, boot camps prioritize hands-on training to prepare individuals for entry-level roles in cybersecurity quickly. While they may not offer the breadth of knowledge or theoretical background as a college degree, boot camps provide skills highly valued by employers for specific positions. Graduates often complement their training with industry certifications to enhance their credibility and meet job requirements.
Gain skills quickly (4.5-5.5 months if you attend full-time).
Some boot camps offer part-time attendance, which costs a little more and significantly extends the completion time.
(This can be a con if you prefer self-study)
Set course schedule and learning path.
(This can be a con if you prefer self-pacing and the ability to choose your own path).
Some programs incorporate certifications in the boot camp.
Expensive ($13,252.34 on average).
Lack of Credentials (No degree and possibly no certifications). Job postings do not require proof of boot camp participation (unlike degrees and certifications).
A college degree in cybersecurity is a program that offers an understanding of the principles and practices of cybersecurity. It typically includes network security, cryptography, ethical hacking, and information assurance courses. Students enrolled in these programs complete both coursework and practical labs to earn a bachelor's (or master's) in the field. In the cybersecurity industry, a college degree can be a foundation for career advancement for more advanced or managerial positions. However, it is essential to note that employers often value certifications and real-world experience to keep up with the changing landscape of threats. While having a degree provides a rounded education, it may not always replace the skills demonstrated by professional accreditations.
Degrees are highly sought after by employers.
Learn crucial research, communication, and writing skills (unlike other options).
Online and in-person degrees are available.
Pre-determined course schedule and learning path.
(This can be a con if you prefer self-pacing and the ability to choose your own path).
Some schools allow you to specialize and take electives so you can specialize in a particular area.
Very Expensive ($35,692 on average).
Gain skills very slowly (Typically, your first 2 years of courses don't provide cybersecurity skills, and it typically takes 4 years to finish the degree).
Not as "hands-on" as the other options.
Some employers/peers may not care about your degree.
A cybersecurity certification is a recognition given by an organization to acknowledge an individual's specific abilities and knowledge in cybersecurity. Acquiring certifications involves completing challenging exams assessing one's expertise in cybersecurity, including ethical hacking, information security management, and network defense. These certifications are highly valuable in the industry because they establish a measure of competency, enable employers to evaluate the skill level of hires or current employees, and often serve as prerequisites for specialized roles or projects. As a result, they play a role in career progression, establishing credibility and ensuring that personnel possess the skills to combat ever-evolving cyber threats.
$554.51 on average (for both training and exam voucher(s)).
Slightly more expensive ($618.51 on average) if you study/practice part-time
Gain skills very quickly (about 1-2 months if you study/practice full-time).
about 2-4 months if you study/practice part-time
They are highly sought-after by employers as they are listed on most job postings.
(This can be a con if you prefer to have instructor-led training)
(This can be a con if you prefer a set schedule).
Semi-custom learning path.
(This can be a con if you prefer a fully structured path).
Very difficult to pass exams, and you must pay for another voucher to re-take the exam in most cases.
Somewhat of a hassle to maintain as most certifications require re-certification after three years.
You must pay small maintenance fees to maintain an active certification in most cases.
Some employers/peers may not care about your certifications.
Self-learning and improving skills in their free time set job candidates apart in this field. Investing time in self-learning cybersecurity fundamentals, developing necessary skills, and researching existing trends are important approaches to gaining an edge before an interview. Demonstrating an enthusiasm towards learning new technologies while developing knowledge of industry practices through open-source study materials and home labs can make candidates stand out among their competitors. Employers often prefer those who demonstrate competence by actively seeking out information independently versus relying solely on course credits or a degree. Becoming self-taught in the rapidly changing world of cybersecurity is essential if one wishes to stand the best chance of being successfully employed in this continually evolving industry. There is absolutely no reason to forgo self-learning, as you should be self-learning on top of any other training option you are doing due to the breadth of free/cheap training options.
Every skill you need can be learned at home for free or at a very low cost.
Gain skills very quickly (You can learn valuable skills in hours).
Seemingly endless online resources.
Employers seek people who learn in their free time as it shows ambition and desire to be in the field.
Custom learning path
No credentials to list on a résumé (degree, certification).
(There are ways to list your home lab projects on résumés though).
Self-study and self-paced means you may not know what or where to go for learning.
(This can be a pro if you know what you want to learn and where to go to learn it).
Now that you're convinced that cybersecurity boot camps are not "worth it", you may be wondering how best to start your career. Don't worry I got you covered! Check out this article for my complete guide on how to start a career in cybersecurity:
How to Get Into Cybersecurity (and Other IT Fields) With No Experience
If you want to know why I like cybersecurity certifications so much, check out this article: